Bury Elminster Deep
Wizards of the Coast (340pp, $25.95, 1st edition August 2011)
Reviewed by John Ottinger III
Sometimes an author can write a little too much about a character. Like a child who loves a stuffed animal, the repeated play can wear the fabric and loosen the stuffing so much that the very toy that was once so loved is rendered unrecognizable. Sentimentality keeps the stuffed animal by the child’s side, but to outside observers, the toy has lost all value.
So it is, I think, with Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood’s latest story of Elminster of Shadowdale. In Bury Elminster Deep the story opens where Elminster Must Die ended. The spellplague that has ravaged the realms has killed Mystra and killed, scattered, or rendered powerless her Chosen, including Elminster. Storm, one of the seven Chosen sisters and Elminster’s constant companion, has lost all magical power other than a head of living hair. Elminster, the most ancient and powerful of Mystra’s Chosen, who has lived through not one, but two incarnations of the goddess, is bodiless, riding the mind of his granddaughter, the dancer Rune, and is unable to perform magic without also enduring bouts of madness.
But then Mystra reappears and asks her favored Chosen to re-enter the kingdom of Cormyr to save it from yet another takeover by Lord Manshoon, the vampire archmage nemesis of Elminster. Manshoon thinks Elminster’s seeming disappearance is an opportunity to seize power in one of the Realms’ oldest human kingdoms. Though severely hobbled by his lack of magic, Storm’s normality and the jealousy of Rune’s boyfriend, Lord Arclath Delcastle, Elminster and company must stop Manshoon before his coup succeeds.
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Lords of Waterdeep (Amazon)
Wizards of the Coast ($49.99, March 2012)
Approximate Play Time: 1 hour
Note: As I write this, Saturday March 17, there’s a 37% discount on the game’s pre-order over at Amazon.
Let’s get this out of the way: Of all of the fantasy board games I’ve ever forced my wife to play for review purposes (or any other purpose for that matter), this is by far her favorite. In her words, “I felt completely engaged throughout the whole game. Usually there’s some strategy here and there, but I had to plan out each and every move in this game.”
So, it’s a keeper!
With that spoiler out of the way, on to the review…
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Last week in part one of our interview Black Gate sat down with Forgotten Realms and Pathfinder author Dave Gross to talk about writing, gaming, and his latest Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils. This week Dave tells us more about his early influences and his transition from gamer to game fiction writer.
Chicken or egg time: what came first for you — gaming or storytelling?
Definitely storytelling. I was learning to read around the time I was learning to walk.
My first geekdom was ghost and horror stories, collections of which I’d order every time the Scholastic Books flyer came around our grade school. I can’t remember when I was first writing stories, but I’m sure it was in homeroom with a half pint of milk nearby. Later I burned through all the SF at our city library, and one day my cousin Francis handed me a copy of The Hobbit, and fantasy became my favorite. After burning through the Tolkien trilogy I devoured everything I could find by R.E. Howard and his clan. It was around that time that a classmate and his elder brother introduced me to D&D. They taught me the game from the original saddle-stitched books. Once the boxed game came out, I began DMing. Which, of course, is its own sort of storytelling.
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Author Dave Gross is perhaps best known for his Forgotten Realms novels such as Black Wolf and Lord of Stormweather. He has also worked as an editor of several gaming publications, including the one-and-only Dragon Magazine, and has most recently become one of the core authors for Paizo’s new Pathfinder Tales line of fiction. I recently had a chance to talk to Dave about his writing, and about his newest Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils.
A Conversation with Dave Gross
Before things get too tangential, Dave, I’d like to ask you about your latest Radovan and Jeggare novel for Pathfinder, Master of Devils. For readers perhaps unfamiliar with Pathfinder, how would you describe the world of Golarion, and the story of Master of Devils in particular?
Golarion is a big, varied world. While many of its countries are intentional reflections of real-world places (Ustalav draws on Eastern Europe, while Osirion is a fantasy version of Egypt), others are complete fantasy inventions with little or no connection to historical sources (The Worldwound, Numeria, or Nex). That combination of the familiar and strange is one of the things that draws me to the setting. It lets you pull details out of real-world cultures and history while allowing plenty of freedom for invention and extrapolation from other fantasy tropes.
The protagonists I introduced in Prince of Wolves come from an area of Golarion’s Inner Sea region that is roughly analogous to Earth’s Southern Europe. Master of Devils takes place in Tian Xia, Golarion’s equivalent of East Asia. Since the journey takes Radovan and the Count completely out of their element, they must learn how to survive in this unfamiliar land at the same time as the readers discover it. Count Jeggare is a scholarly sort who’s read and heard much about the place, but he’s never actually experienced it. Radovan is a complete fish out of water, having left the country of his birth for the first time only a few months earlier. The third progatonist … well, let’s just say the third POV character has a completely different perspective than the others. My hope is that readers who might not otherwise snap up an Asian-based sword & sorcery novel will find Master of Devils an easy and fun journey into the distant lands of Tian Xia.
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